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Best Places to Holiday on the French Riviera

Best Places to Holiday on the French Riviera

It’s not hard to make the decision to holiday on the French Riviera. After all, the region is one of the world’s most beautiful, the sun always has his hat on and the food will keep you going back for seconds.

But where exactly should you go? There are so many stunning towns and villages which pepper the coastline from St Tropez to Menton on the Italian border.

This guide will answer that question and give you plenty of inspiration for a summer in paradise.

St Tropez

Beaches and beautiful coastline for miles in St Tropez Beaches and beautiful coastline for miles in St Tropez

It’s up there with the most talked about holiday destinations in the world, St Tropez is everything the hype suggests, and more.

If you’ve never been to the French Riviera, St Tropez is a good choice. It’s home to some of the best beaches on the south coast, has an abundance of luxury villas to choose from and is one of the most lively atmospheres you’ll experience.

Aside from the centre of St Tropez, make sure you visit Gassin, Ramatuelle and of course Pampelonne which is home to famous beach hangouts like Club 55.  

What’s hot in St Tropez?

  • Some of the world’s best beach clubs
  • Golden sandy beaches which are not too common on the French Riviera
  • Outstanding Michelin star restaurants like Arnaud Donckele’s La Vague d'Or

Accommodation in St Tropez

Getting to St Tropez

Of all the amazing places to holiday on the French Riviera, St Tropez is one of the more tricky to get to as it’s nestled away in a corner, away from the motorway and train line.

The best way to get there is to take a helicopter from Nice airport. That way you can be at your St Tropez villa in 25 minutes.

Otherwise, you could get a private transfer or Uber which takes more like 1 hour 26 minutes.

Cannes

Yachts in Cannes Port Drop anchor here and discover Cannes

It’s not just the Film Festival which makes Cannes world renowned.

All year round there are things going on to keep visiting holidaymakers entertained. If shopping is your thing, Cannes is a good option for you.

There’s an abundance of designer shops, cool bars, top restaurants and typically French cafés where you can sit and watch the world go by.

The social calendar in Cannes is arguably the best on the French Riviera. Aside from the Film Festival and all the lights, cameras and action around the red carpet, there’s Cannes Lions, Cannes Yachting Festival, MIPIM and MIPTV to look forward to (amongst others).

Like St Tropez, Cannes is one of the few places on the French Riviera which has sandy beaches. All the way along the Croisette you can feel the sand between your toes.

Watch the sun go down over the Esterel hills with a cocktail in hand, then don your best outfit and head to town for a night of indulgence. That’s what Cannes is all about. You’ll love it.

What’s hot in Cannes?

  • World-class events and shows on throughout the year
  • Cannes Croisette and all the beach clubs lining the turquoise sea
  • Sandy beaches for miles and miles
  • The Lérins Islands just off the coast of Cannes

Accommodation in Cannes

Getting to Cannes

There is a train station right in the centre of Cannes and many national trains coming in and out on a daily basis.

Otherwise, if you’re flying into Nice, jump on a helicopter there and you can be in Cannes in 7 minutes. By car it will take more like 30 minutes if the traffic is flowing.

Cap d’Antibes

Cap d'Antibes, a road bikers paradise Cap d'Antibes, a road bikers paradise

There are a few outstanding ‘Caps’ in the South of France. Cap d’Antibes is one of them, situated between Cannes and Nice. It’s a little piece of paradise. The epitome of good living, the Cap’s magnificent villas with sumptuous gardens are a delightful place to spend a holiday.

Get a feel for the place by walking the coastal path which meanders over the rocks, the beaches, and by the creeks.

You are just a short distance from Antibes old town, where you’ll find art galleries, restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Le Figuier de Saint Esprit , several cool bars, and the old galleried market. Just by the ramparts is Chateau Grimaldi which houses the Picasso Museum and the town also has three other museums, a cathedral, four ports and a fort to explore.

What’s hot in Cap d’Antibes?

  • The exclusive setting - magnificent villas and luxurious gardens
  • A 4 km coastal walk with fabulous 360-degree views
  • Proximity to Antibes and Juan les Pins

Accommodation in Cap d’Antibes

Getting to Cap d’Antibes

Nice International Airport is 17 kms away. Cannes Airport is 24 kms away. From either of these you can hire a car or get a taxi right to your holiday haven.

Antibes has a railway station, and regular connections from Nice.

If you’re coming by yacht, Port Vauban in Antibes can accommodate even the largest superyachts.  

Hillside Villages

Medieval magic at St Paul de Vence Medieval magic at St Paul de Vence

The French Riviera coastal resorts are a huge draw for many, but some prefer to get away from the madding crowds, but not too far away. If that describes you, then your dream holiday may well be spent in the hinterland of the French Riviera.

Not very far inland from Cannes and Nice there are a host of gorgeous unspoilt perched villages high on the spurs of the rocky landscape, or others nestled among the vineyards and olive groves of the valley.

One such place is Mougins, a pretty medieval village which became the home or holiday haunt at one time or another of artists and celebrities such as Picasso, Man Ray, Yves St Laurent, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Churchill.

The town of Grasse is another delightful holiday spot. It’s the world capital of perfume, of course, and you can immerse yourself in that world with visits to Galimard, Molinard, and Fragonard, as well as wandering the cobbled streets lined with ancient houses, boutiques and cafes.

Other not-to-be-missed places are Valbonne, Biot which is famous for its glass blowing industry, St Paul de Vence and Vence, and Mouans-Sartoux.

So much to do in the hillside of the French Riviera but don’t forget that the main idea is to take some downtime and enjoy the moment with good company, fine wine, and delicious food.

What’s hot in the Hillside Riviera?

  • L’Amandier Restaurant in Mougins for fine dining, or even for a one-day cookery course
  • The walking trails and opportunities for biking and pony trekking
  • The golf courses
  • The village of Opio with its Roman remains
  • Visits to the perfume houses of Grasse
  • The art galleries and the famous Colombe d’Or Restaurant in St Paul de Vence

Accommodation in the French Riviera Hillside

Getting to the French Riviera hillside villages

You’ll need wheels in some form or another to get around in this area, either a private car or car rental, but your point of arrival can be by plane to Nice International Airport; transfer by plane or helicopter to Cannes, or by train to Nice, Antibes, Cannes or Grasse railway stations.

Villefranche

Villefranche on the French Riviera Villefranche, perhaps the most charming village of them all

A hop and a skip from Nice is the lovely town of Villefranche sur Mer. Its unique setting between the pristine blue-green of the Mediterranean and the ochre of the craggy hills means it has been a stunning backdrop for movie makers for years. Have a gander again at Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery, or The Jewel of the Nile with Michael Douglas, or even the recent Absolutely Fabulous film, and you’ll perhaps spot the exact same harbourside bistro where you will have lunch.  

The place has an exclusive genuine feel, a bit like stepping back in time, with its fabulous villas at the top of the town and the Provencal coloured houses in the cobbled streets of the old town. Except that today there’s also a modern town centre with boutiques, restaurants and a market.

What’s hot in Villefranche?

  • The Cinema Plein Air at the Citadel, seated under the stars, from June to September
  • Summer antiques market every Saturday in the Place Amelie Polonnais
  • The lovely Plage des Marinieres shingle beach
  • The romantic Italian-French atmosphere

Accommodation in Villefranche

Getting to Villefranche

Villefranche sur Mer is just 12 kms from Nice International Airport. If you arrive by train, Nice station is 20 kms from Villefranche. From either of these you can get to your holiday villa by hire car or taxi.

St Jean Cap Ferrat

St Jean Cap Ferrat Boats in the Bay Drop anchor beside St Jean Cap Ferrat and watch the world go by

French Riviera holidaying at its finest. St Jean Cap Ferrat has been luring the world’s most discerning visitors for over a century now. A small village with a big presence on the coastline between Nice and Monaco, its Belle Epoque villas, luxuriant gardens, and winding roads evoke the era of F Scott Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age to a tee.

Lovely beaches, a pretty port, coastal walks, designer shopping, and restaurants a gogo sum up the St Jean experience. There’s lots to do and enjoy at any time of the year. You’ll probably never want to leave, but if you do fancy a spin somewhere, both Nice and Monaco are neighbours and a lovely coastal drive away from your sweet home from home.

What’s hot in St Jean Cap Ferrat?

  • The scuba diving with grottos and underwater caves just off the coastline
  • The Belle Epoque Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, the former home and gardens of the Baroness Rothschild, now a museum
  • The walking trails around the headland - 12 kms of them to choose from

Accommodation in St Jean Cap Ferrat

Getting to St Jean Cap Ferrat

Fly into Nice International Airport, 17 kms from St Jean Cap Ferrat and get a hire car or taxi.

Alternatively, if you are arriving by train, Nice station is 10 kms away. From there you can either get a taxi or take the local train from Nice to St Jean Cap Ferrat.

Eze

Eze Village looking down to Eze by the sea Picture perfect Eze village looking down to the seaside town

Perched high on a cliff, as though it’s an eagle’s lookout, is the charming village of Eze. It’s set in the dramatic craggy landscape between Nice and Monaco. Surprisingly, it’s not very well known, but it really is a little jewel. Definitely worth visiting if you are staying in the area.

The village was founded on the ruins of a 12th-century castle, so as you can imagine, the views are breathtaking.

You can while away hours wandering around the unspoilt village with its cobbled streets, traditional houses, fountains and shady squares with arts and crafts boutiques. Of course, no visit would be complete without a few pit-stops for a delicious cappuccino, or glass of rose, and you’ll be spoiled for choice here.

What’s hot in Eze?

  • The award winning Botanical Gardens on the site of a medieval fortress
  • Visit to the laboratory-factory of Fragonard perfumery
  • The views over St Jean Cap Ferrat
  • Lunch at the splendid La Chevre d’Or restaurant at the top of the village

Accommodation in Eze

Getting to Eze

Eze is 11 kms from Nice, and 8 kms from Monaco. If you don’t have a car (parking can be difficult around the village), your best bet is probably taking a taxi.

There are buses from Nice and from Monaco, though be sure to ask for the one which goes to Eze-le-Village, and not Eze-Bord-de-Mer. If you take the latter you’ll be faced with a fairly strenuous uphill walk to get to the village.  

Monaco

Majestic Monaco Majestic Monaco and its abundance of superyachts

Monaco needs no introduction really. It’s one of the most iconic places in the world for glamour and luxury. This tiny principality perched on the rocky coastline at the French/Italian border has been the place to see and be seen since even before a famous Hollywood star graced the Monte Carlo Palace with her presence.

Monaco is a great place to visit at any time of the year but things really start hotting up in May when the Monaco Grand Prix takes place.

Despite its small size (just over 2 km²), Monaco packs a huge punch. Even without venturing beyond its limits you can have an amazing stay with so much to do and see, and eat and drink! There’s the world famous Casino, of course, plus the Rock with the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the Monaco Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum, the old town and Port Hercules with some of the most exclusive shopping in the world, and a number of cool clubs on the beach.

What’s hot in Monaco?

  • Great restaurants and nightlife
  • All the designer shopping you could wish for
  • The Rock
  • World class events - tennis, Grand Prix, yacht show, jazz festival...

Accommodation in Monaco

Getting to Monaco

Nice Côte d'Azur International Airport is just 25 minutes down the coast from Monaco. From there you can take a helicopter, taxi or hire car.

Alternatively, you can take a train directly to Monaco.

Or by yacht. A berth can be arranged in Port Hercules for your stay.

Provence

Gordes, a typical Provençal town Gordes, a typical Provençal town

Provence rhymes with romance, in more ways than one. In the area west of the French Riviera is a vast variety of landscapes, towns and villages which all have one thing in common - the pace of life and the love of the finer simpler things. The Provencal regions of the Var (St Tropez, Frejus, Hyères, Draguignan, Sanary sur Mer, Toulon…) and the Bouches du Rhône (Marseille, Aix en Provence, Cassis, Arles, …) are the shy cousins of the glitzy Riviera.

In a short stay in Provence you can delight in walking in the Calanques (fjord-like inlets on the Mediterranean coast) around Cassis and Marseille, go wine tasting in any number of vineyard domaines, sip a pastis or rose wine on the famous tree-lined boulevard Cours Mirabeau in Aix en Provence, visit the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, kayak in the Gorges du Verdon, play golf near Bandol, dine like royalty anywhere you wish, and go home tanned, fit and reinvigorated.

What’s hot in Provence?

  • Canyoning, kayaking or walking in the Gorges du Verdon
  • Wine tasting at any one of the Domaines, or even going the whole hog and taking a jaunt along the Provence wine route from Toulon to the Massif des Maures
  • The lavender fields blooming from June to August
  • The troglodyte dwellings in Cotignac
  • Hiking up Sainte Victoire mountain then having dinner in Aix en Provence
  • Visiting the Calanques between Cassis and Marseille

Accommodation in the South of France

Getting to Provence

Depending on where you are staying, you can fly into Nice International Airport, Marseille Provence Airport, or perhaps even the smaller Toulon Hyeres Airport. Then onwards by private or hire car.

By rail, likewise the main stations of Nice, Marseille, or Toulon receive the fast TGV trains, and many of the smaller towns in Provence and the Var have connecting trains from these stations, or you can opt for private or hire car.

If you’re yachting in, the ports all have berthing opportunities - Frejus, Sanary sur Mer, Bandol, La Seyne sur Mer, La Ciotat, Cassis, Marseille plus many of the smaller ports along the coastline.

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